Personal Luxuries

Packing a punch

Uber-compact, ultra-functional or utterly gorgeous… Jonathan Futrell selects his favourite companions for the man on the move.

November 17 2010
Jonathan Futrell

Very often, little things can make a disproportionate difference to the ease and enjoyment of travelling to far-flung destinations. Travel accessories sometimes overcome a perennial bugbear in the simplest way. Other times accessories combine the comfort and reassurance of luxury with the technical ingenuity of military kit.

Hours in a suitcase can leave the best clothes crumpled, but you can be sure of a well-pressed tie with Hermès’ beautiful Ties Only black leather pouch (£1,116). Holding six ties, measuring 46cm x 20cm, with a tiny tie hanger and a snap-shut hinge, it slips into the side of a suitcase, and spells an end to rolling ties up and stuffing them into shoes.

Aspinal of London has a raft of useful accessories, from travel wallets (from £125) to roll-up travel backgammon sets (£175), although the standout item is the Amazon Brown Croc & Stone Suede Accessory Case (£270). It’s a handsome safe for sartorial paraphernalia, with separate compartments for studs, pins, cuff links and even a spare mobile phone.

Dunhill has applied biometric technology in its Biometric Wallet (£525). The new carbon-fibre wallet opens by reading the owner’s fingertips when swiped across a sensor on its side. It can also be linked to a mobile phone via Bluetooth: should the two become separated beyond a range of five metres, an alarm sounds.

Victorinox, maker of the Swiss Army knife, has also harnessed biometric technology to secure data on its latest range of high-tech tools. The Secure Pro (from £100 for 8GB) and Presentation Master Flight (from £170-£320 for 8GB) can store up to 32GB of encrypted data on a memory stick. The Secure Pro has conventional features, including scissors, nail file and screwdriver, while the bladeless Presentation Master Flight has a laser light for boardroom presentations.

Among a range of travelling packs from Prada, one of the most useful is the Kit Luchetti (£150), a smart zipped case that holds two luggage locks – one with a key and the other combination. As handy is the Kit da Aereo (£150), a nylon case containing a washbag, flannel and four 50ml bottles into which toiletries can be decanted, in line with airport security.

Of course, if you want to keep valuable gear safe, a solid metal casing is hard to beat. It’s why Dunhill has used a polished red aluminium barrel for its Limited Edition Sentryman Explorer Pen (£3,900). Inspired by South Pole explorers (you can use it down to -20?C) and resembling a Bond-film gadget, the case contains an interchangeable fountain and ballpoint pen. Housed inside the screw top is an artificial flint that can be struck against the top to create a spark.

Cigar smokers also know the value of metal tubes to protect their smokes. Many will have aluminium ones in their humidors. TomTom’s Adjust-A-Tube (£79) is different: unlike conventional tubes made for one size of smoke, this is an expandable carbon-fibre case to accommodate a range of lengths and girths, from the fashionably fat robusto all the way up to a mighty Churchill.

Carbon fibre is currently finding much favour in lightweight travel gear. Czech & Speake uses it to house its No 88 Carbon Fibre Travellers Shaving Kit (£695). Inside is a Mach III safety razor, a shaving dish, shaving brush and a bottle of No 88 Aftershave.

Then we come to those craftily designed products that can reduce in size while managing not to compromise their usefulness. They’re a boon – and not only to cabin-baggage-only travellers. Take Redfoot shoes. This Lancashire company’s black or brown loafers (£100) have been cleverly designed to fold precisely in half, fitting into a nylon pouch, and then snap back into shape when you need to wear them.

Likewise, Hackett’s gold-rimmed aviator sunglasses (£169) fold down to half their size and fit into a sturdy leather box. And far better than a collapsible umbrella is the packable range from London’s Fox Umbrellas (from £180). These are full-size umbrellas, with steel-tube frames, and handles and tips that unscrew and fold inside, reducing overall length from 91cm to 69cm. That’s small enough to slip inside most cases.

JVC’s HA-NC120 (£70) headphones also fold down in ingenious ways to take up less space, but that’s only half the story. Featuring noise-cancelling technology, they’ll plug into most airline entertainment systems and offset almost 90 per cent of ambient noise.

If the weight of luggage is an issue, Flylight cases (£80) can help. They have built-in scales, with an LCD readout next to the handle – perfect for challenging the jobsworth at check-in.

The world is full of gadget chargers, but few are as effective as either of the following. First, the Powermonkey-eXplorer (£65) is a mobile power pack that may be charged in one of three ways: from the mains, a laptop or by lying out in the sun. So while you’re tanning or having an alfresco business meeting the eXplorer is powering up. The other is the IDAPT i4 (£39.99), which can charge four gadgets simultaneously; that’s the phone, laptop, camera and iPad all up and ready for use the next day.

With Apple on target for global domination, the world is awash with aftermarket extras for its laptops. The most covetable are those from Mulberry, with a range for MacBooks of svelte leather cases with brass clasps (from £350).

It’s a sign of the times that hotels and resorts trumpet their keep-fit facilities as much, and sometimes more, than the strength of the wine cellar. Doing its bit for global fitness, Louis Vuitton has produced its Gym Set (£265), with head and wrist bands, cotton towel and foot mat, together in a sleek shoulder pouch. Not to be outdone, A-list bag maker Tumi’s Travel Workout Player (£165) is a clever little device that, in addition to an MP3 player and FM radio, has a pedometer, stopwatch, heart-rate monitor and 3-D motion analysis sensor to help you stay in shape.

Two of my favourite travel items are as cheap as chips and take up next to no room. One is the Grilliput (£24.99), a collapsible barbecue sold in a sack the size of a pencil case. Screw it together, then all you need is some firewood or a small pack of charcoal and some freshly caught fish for an environmentally friendly feast. The other is the Joby Gorillapod (from £16.95), a bendy, grippy camera tripod that attaches to fences, trees, and handlebars for self-timer snaps.

My other favourite costs a good deal more, because it is a thing of real beauty and manufactured with Teutonic precision. The Leica Monovid (£350) is an 8x20 monocular that’s a lot less cumbersome than conventional binoculars, and boasts an extraordinarily sharp, bright lens. It comes with a close-up lens connector for viewing things microscopically, and packs into a quality black-leather case.

Arriving is always the better part of travelling, which is why the moment should be as memorable, and as comfortable, as possible. Sagaform’s Forest Rucksack (£39.95) is the 21st-century answer to the shooting stick. It’s a backpack for carrying sandwiches and gear off-the-beaten-track, but when you arrive at the mother-of-all-views, two legs open out from the back and it turns into a folding stool. And this is the point at which you should reach for the Aspinal Flask with Carry Case (£99), a 500ml thermal flask within a leather shoulder case that can only look better with time.